The largest earthquake in a dozen years rattled most of Montana early Thursday morning, radiating from an epicenter just outside Lincoln.
The quake, which initially measured 5.8 magnitude, hit the region around 12:30 a.m. and was fairly shallow, happening just a little over two miles below the surface.
The earthquake also lasted for upwards of 30 seconds, beginning with a slow tremor and then building in intensity. It was followed by what appeared to be a smaller aftershock a few minutes later.
Lincoln residents and businesses were reporting minor damages early Thursday morning.
The quake was felt as far east as Billings and as far west as Spokane, including Idaho. The quake registered as "strong" to "very strong" in the Lincoln area of Lewis and Clark County.
9-1-1 call centers were swamped with phone calls following the quake and were advising people to only call if they were injured.
The quake appears to be the largest to hit Montana since a 5.6 struck outside of Dillon a dozen years ago. By comparison, the state's largest quake which struck the West Yellowstone region 58-years ago was 7.2 magnitude.
The Lincoln Volunteer Fire & Rescue posted the following message on Facebook:
As everyone should know by now, we had one heck of a shaker roll thru Lincoln. Centered just outside of town at magnitude 5.8. Please make sure your propane tanks are not compromised or off their blocks. You will have to check your chimneys and furnace exhausts as well before it gets cold to make sure they are still aligned and not at risk. We will be having aftershocks roll thru, so be prepared. Always have a 3 day supply of food and water, for you and your pets. Check your livestock and fences too. Do a real good examination of your home once we get some daylight. Check your pipes, water heaters, etc.
If in doubt, call a professional. If its something you feel is an emergency, call 911.
BACKGROUND: According to the USGS, Montana is one of the most seismically-active states in the country, although the vast majority of recorded earthquakes are very small, causing no damage and rarely noticed by people.
Montana is located within the Intermountain Seismic Belt, an active earthquake region stretching along the Rocky Mountains. It is the fourth-most seismically active state, although the vast majority of earthquakes in Montana are too small to be felt.
But there are exceptions. About 90 years ago, a large earthquake hit southwest Montana. The quake damaged a school house in Three Forks, twisted railroad tracks along the Missouri River, and damaged a jail in White Sulphur Springs.
Ten years after that another big quake hit Helena, killing two people and causing millions of dollars in damage. It damaged churches, collapsed walls right out of homes, and hit commercial and government buildings as well.
There was also the deadly 1959 earthquake that created "Quake Lake" and shook West Yellowstone. It claimed the lives of 28 people and did the equivalent of $89 million in damage.